Paris (AFP)

Ile-de-France and Hauts-de-France reconfigured for the weekend or even for the whole week?

The executive must announce new restrictions on Thursday to try to curb the "third wave" of the Covid-19 epidemic which will "hit very hard" until mid-April according to Emmanuel Macron.

"We are, let's be clear, in a third wave largely due to the rise of this famous English variant. The situation is clearly critical. It will hit very hard until mid-April," said the Head of State Wednesday evening during a videoconference with mayors from Ile-de-France and other regions.

It is its Prime Minister, Jean Castex, who is due to announce these new restrictions on Thursday at 6 p.m., which will first affect the 12 million Ile-de-France residents and the 6 million inhabitants of Hauts-de-France, two regions particularly affected by the clear acceleration of the circulation of the virus in France, with more than 38,000 contaminations in 24 hours according to the latest assessment.

As of Wednesday noon, at the end of a new Sanitary Defense Council, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that "additional measures", applicable from this weekend, would be taken in these two regions, while by suggesting that the schools would remain open there.

No new restrictions, however, in PACA, where Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes coast are already confined at weekends.

The exact nature of the new "braking measures", as well as their duration, remains to be determined and the executive will continue Thursday to consult elected officials to refine its strategy.

- Three scenarios -

While Mr. Macron promises "pragmatic, proportionate, territorialized, necessary decisions", his Prime Minister mentioned three scenarios to parliamentarians on Wednesday: confinement at the weekend, confinement as in November or confinement like that of spring 2020.

"The hypothesis of a national confinement is not considered at this stage but not excluded" if the data continued to evolve unfavorably, reported the leader of the PS senators Patrick Kanner to AFP, confirming that the executive preferred for the moment a "territorial and differentiated logic".

The president of Hauts-de-France Xavier Bertrand, for his part, affirmed on BFMTV that two options had been presented to him by the Minister of Health Olivier Véran: "either a confinement on weekends", like that which currently prevails in the Pas-de-Calais for example, "or confinement as in November" throughout the week.

In front of elected officials, Emmanuel Macron insisted on the weariness of the French and the need to continue to play outdoor sports.

"We still learned one thing from the first confinement, it is that being outside is pretty good, if we don't have big parties or we don't start drinking beer in places common ", said the head of state.

He also mentioned the difficulty of confining the Ile-de-France on weekends where "people come home late every evening".

While all of France is already under curfew, the executive has done everything to delay further restrictions.

Transfers of patients to less affected regions have been organized, hospitals are deprogramming operations and mobilizing beds from private clinics.

- Decision also on AstraZeneca -

But these patient movements are more complicated than expected: only ten patients were transferred out of Ile-de-France in three days, according to the director general of the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris, Martin Hirsch, who has indicated that "just over 10%" of patients in intensive care were "sufficiently stable" for this and that families were reluctant.

The figures remain bad: in addition to the increase in the number of contaminations, the incidence rate has again climbed to 425 new cases of contamination per 100,000 inhabitants over the last seven days in the Paris region (505 in Seine-Saint-Denis), well above the so-called "maximum alert" threshold of the health authorities (250).

In total, 4,219 Covid-19 patients were in intensive care on Wednesday in France, while the country exceeded the bar of 91,000 dead.

To get out of the crisis, which cost more than 160 billion euros last year according to the Minister of Public Accounts Olivier Dussopt, France is counting on mass vaccination, slowed since Monday by the surprise suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine , in the wake of Germany.

"We have reason to believe" that the European Medicines Agency, which is due to issue an opinion on Thursday, "will continue to authorize the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine," Mr. Attal said on Wednesday, saying he was "optimistic".

The executive still intends to achieve its goal of vaccinating 10 million French people by mid-April.

Due date Emmanuel Maron hopes for "stabilization" on the front of the epidemic, before a "switch to a more normal life" from "the second half of May".

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© 2021 AFP